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Parental Involvement:

Censorship? Or Good Parenting?


Q. What if the content in a book that our teenager's school assigns or recommends is raunchy, R-rated or worse? Is it distasteful censorship, or good parenting, to complain?


Here's a great resource that can answer questions like yours:


It's always good for parents to give schools honest feedback about the curriculum that our tax dollars is providing for our students. After all, they're the employees and you're the bosses!


Never shrink back from voicing your concerns; you may be surprised how much good a thoughtful, courteous parent can do. Often, administrators are wishing and hoping for parents just like that to pitch in and help. "Continuous quality improvement" is the mantra in many districts; good ones welcome input and recognize that it is by little changes, consistently over time, that excellence is achieved.


And no, it's not censorship to complain, and ask that objectionable books be replaced with higher quality fare. Steering students to quality books doesn't mean certain books are censored; as long as students can still obtain what you call "raunchy, R-rated" books in the public library or in a bookstore, no censorship has occurred.


Individual citizens can't be censors, anyway. Only the government can censor books; the rest of us can only exercise our judgment, good or bad. It becomes a problem when educators don't have very good judgment, though. Parents and the public have to step in, and demand their legal right to insist on quality, appropriate learning materials.


A parent protest involving more than 70 families recently turned out well in Lewis Center, Ohio, where the school superintendent ordered two of four books on a recommended summer reading list for incoming sophomore English classes at Liberty High School be thrown out. The reasons: sexual violence, repeated profanity, and blasphemous anti-Christian content.


Superintendent Scott Davis ordered The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon stricken from the list after parental complaints.


According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, the first novel starts off with a rape and murder scene and the second one is a murder mystery peppered with dozens of profanities and derogatory references to Jesus and God. A parent recorded the page numbers on which the objectionable scenes and curse words appeared, and turned it in to the district.


The superintendent said that there are millions of books to choose from that DON'T have graphic sex scenes and excessive violence and profanity, but still cover challenging and interesting topics. He said exercising good judgment in selecting particular books to recommend to students should be easy. He faulted what he called a "lack of communication" by his staff with parents about how and why the books were selected. He called for a new selection process for next summer in which teachers, administrators, board members and parents all have input into the list.


The first step in lodging a complaint is to read the book yourself, document what's objectionable, band together with other parents, talk to people who know literature, and list some alternatives that do a better job teaching the same basic ideas, without the rape scenes, "f" words and put-downs of Jesus Christ. Then make an appointment with the educators, and work your way up the chain of command until you get someone who loves good books . . . and wants to "be careful, little eyes what you see."


Homework: You can check book reviews and good information from Parents Against Bad Books In Schools,


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 2012


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